Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hallowe'en

My brother and sister all dressed-up for trick-or-treating.

Raymond with Marianne (left), 1974.

Raymond, 1975.

Raymond, 1980.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, October 29, 2012

1953 Sarnia Tornado

While reading Frankenstorm: Great-Grandpa Would Not Have Known it was Coming at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, it occurred to me that my mother Jacqueline lived through her own "Frankenstorm": the 1953 tornado in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

On the afternoon of 21 May 1953, Mom (who was 19 years old) was visiting her eldest sister Mariette and her husband Jack at their home in Sarnia. A thunderstorm suddenly appeared. Mom went out on the wide front porch and to her amazement, saw large hailstones falling. She called to her sister to come outside and see this force of nature. Unbeknownst to them, though, a tornado was raging in parts of the city. Mercifully, the storm didn’t touch Aunt Mariette’s house or street. The next day, Mom and a friend went to inspect the damage, taking pictures of the destruction.

A street near Aunt Mariette's house:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

Shoemaker's on George Street:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

The back of Front Street, Sarnia:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

The tornado had first touched down about 4:30 p.m. in Smiths Creek, Michigan, USA, and then moved on to nearby Port Huron.[1] The storm crossed the St. Clair River and headed for Sarnia, where it caused severe damage to homes and downtown businesses. The tornado continued throughout Lambton (where Sarnia is located) and Middlesex counties in southwestern Ontario. It left seven dead, 40 injured, and 500 homeless, as well as causing $59.7 million in damages.[2]


1. Wikipedia contributors, "1953 Sarnia tornado", Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed 29 October 2012).

2. "Signifcant tornadoes of the 19th and 20th centuries", database, Public Safety Canada ( : accessed 29 October 2012). Note: This article specifies that quoted "damage figures are in year 2000 dollars".

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Fred and Julie Belair

Fred and Julie Belair
Fred and Julie Belair, 1926.

This is one of those pictures in my family photo albums that I get sentimental whenever I see it. It is a beautiful studio portrait of my paternal grandparents Fred and Julie (Vanasse) Belair, taken on their wedding day on 28 October 1926 – 86 years ago today.

I don't know anything about their courtship, other than they met through Fred's half-sister Almina (Belair) Lapierre, who was a good friend of Julie's. (Almina and Julie worked as domestics in private homes in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in the 1920s.)

My grandfather and grandmother were almost 37 years old and 30 years old, respectively, when they married. Their wedding took place at St-Jean-Baptiste RC church in Ottawa. I don't even know if they had a honeymoon.

The original photograph was set in a lightweight easel-style cardboard picture frame that measures 22 cm x 15 cm (approximately 8 1/2" x 6").

Fred appears to be sitting on a stool or low bench, while Julie looks comfortable in a fabric-lined wicker chair. They look relaxed and confident. They are well-dressed: Fred is sporting a three-piece suit and Julie is fashionable in a drop-waist, long-sleeved dress. A pearl ring can be seen on Julie's left hand. Fred has wavy red hair, but the colour does not show up in the photo. Julie, who had dark hair, wears typical 1920s bobbed hair and round eyeglasses. A painted background adds atmosphere to the portrait.

My grandparents were married for 40 years. Julie died in March 1967; Fred passed away in January 1991. I miss you, Mémère and Pépère.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet – Y is for …

Y is for (Marguerite d') Youville.

Inspired by Donna Pointkouski's post earlier this week (X is for Xavier), in which she writes about St. Francis Xavier, I decided to post a brief biography about Marguerite d'Youville, the first saint born in Canada.

Marguerite d'Youville
Marguerite d'Youville

Born Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais on 15 October 1701 in Varennes, Quebec, Marguerite (as she was known) came from distinguished stock. Her father Christophe du Frost, sieur de la Gesmerays (La Jemmerais), was originally from Brittany, France. An officer, he reached the rank of captain the same year his daughter Marguerite was born. Her mother Marie-Renée Gauthier was a co-heiress of the Varennes seigneurie, owned by her father René Gauthier, sieur de Varennes, the governor of Trois-Rivières.

After a failed engagement to a young nobleman, Marguerite married François You on 22 August 1722 in Notre-Dame church in Montreal. François, also known as Youville de la Découverte or simply Youville, was the son of Pierre You, a companion of Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle. Pierre was with the famous explorer when he claimed the Mississippi basin (Louisiana) for the French king in 1682.

A fur merchant, François also engaged in contraband activities, selling alcohol to the Amérindiens. He often left his young family to fend for itself. When François became mortally ill in July 1730, Marguerite nursed him with compassion. Now his widow with two young sons, she had to cope with François' debts and ruined reputation. (The couple's other children, a son and two daughters, died as infants. A sixth child, born posthumously in February 1731, also died as an infant.)

After her husband's death, Marguerite chose to move forward with her life and be of service to others. Soon, she and three women formed a little group to help the poor of Montreal. New France of the 1730s didn't have provisions or social programs to care for women who were elderly, infirm, widowed, or without family support. In December 1737, Marguerite and her companions formalised their arrangement by forming a lay community dedicated to Christ and to serving anyone in need. After years of caring for the poor and disadvantaged, Marguerite and her group received royal permission to found a new religious order in June 1753: the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal. Marguerite was the Order's first superior.

The call to the religious life was strong in Marguerite's family. Two of her brothers, Charles and Joseph, as well as a maternal uncle, became priests. One of her mother's sisters joined the Ursuline nuns in Quebec City. Later, Marguerite's own sons François and Charles joined the priesthood.

Marguerite and her religious sisters, known as the Grey Nuns, did not live a cloistered life in Montreal. They were active in their community and accepted anyone at their door, at first in their modest rented house, and later at the Hôpital Général, when they took over its management in 1747. (Note that Marguerite's hospital should not be confused with Montreal General Hospital, which was founded in 1819.) The sisters went where they were needed, whether it was the local home of someone afflicted with smallpox or further afield in Oka, some distance away, to care for the Aboriginals.

Grey Nuns' Hospital in 2009.

Photo source: Wikipedia contributors, "Grey Nuns' Hospital," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, ( : accessed October 26, 2012).

After years of devoted service to her Order, Marguerite's life drew to a close. She died after suffering a stroke on 23 December 1771 in Montreal at the Hospital where she had worked with charity, dedication, skill and courage.

Marguerite's path to sainthood began in April 1890 when Pope Leon XIII declared her Venerable. Later, in May 1959, Pope John XXIII beatified Marguerite; she was now Blessed. On 9 December 1990, she was canonised by Pope John Paul II; she was now Saint Marguerite. Her feast day is celebrated on October 16.

Marguerite's tomb rests in a chapel dedicated to her in Saint-Anne Basilica in Varennes, her birthplace.

While preparing the biography of this remarkable woman, it occurred to me that some of my ancestors might have been patients in Marguerite's Hôpital Général. I did a quick search and found a candidate: Barbe Pilet, widow of Toussaint Raymond dit Passe-Campagne, my paternal ancestors. Barbe, born in 1667 in Boucherville, Quebec, died on 2 January 1757 at the Hôpital Général in Montreal. She was buried there the next day. Now that I know that Barbe was taken care of by the Sisters of Charity, it's tempting to imagine that Saint Marguerite d'Youville herself might have given comfort to my ancestress.

For more information about Saint Marguerite d'Youville, visit les Soeur Grises de Montréal. To read what other bloggers have written throughout this A to Z challenge, take a look at Family History Through the Alphabet.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow Friday: BC Archives

BC Archives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada recently made available a new online genealogy database.

Since early September, genealogists and family historians can search for birth, marriage and death registrations from home. The database also includes baptisms and colonial marriages.

All of these records are free to access, from the index to the digitized images. There are four types of searches: Keyword/Boolean, Basic, Advanced and Browse.

The coverage depends on the record set:

  • Baptisms: 1836-1888
  • Births: 1854-1903
  • Colonial Marriages: 1859-1872
  • Marriages: 1872-1936
  • Deaths: 1872-1991

Presently, there are 700,000 images in the database; more are scheduled to come online.

If you have relatives that lived in British Columbia or passed through this province, you'll want to take advantage of this set of records.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Workday Wednesday: William Demoskoff, Fuel Truck Driver

William Demoskoff, about 1972.

My father-in-law William (Bill) Demoskoff drove a fuel truck for Northern Petroleum Corporation in Kamsack, Saskatchewan, Canada. He was with NPC from about 1965 to 1972.

Bill served rural customers in a ten-mile radius from Kamsack. The photo, dated about 1972, shows him filling his truck before his next run. 

In summer, he delivered diesel and gasoline to farmers' above-ground storage tanks. In winter, he delivered heating oil to farmers' house furnace tanks. 

Bill found it challenging to work in the winter months, because of the cold temperatures and snowed-in roads.

In 1973, Bill and his family moved to British Columbia, where he eventually retired and enjoyed a milder climate.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet – X is for …

X is for Xainte Dupont.

Xainte Dupont is my 9x maternal great-grandmother. She was born in about 1595 or 1596, based on her ages on the 1666 and 1667 censuses. An approximate year of birth of 1583, according to her age of 97 stated in her burial record, is not likely correct.

Xainte’s parents are unknown, but she was probably from Mortagne in Perche, a county in Normandy, France. She married Michel Lermusier on or about 26 February 1612 in Mortagne. They did not have children. As his widow, Xainte married Zacharie Cloutier on 18 July 1616 in Mortagne. Her name is spelled “Saintes Du Pont” at this marriage.

Zacharie, a master carpenter, signed a contract with Robert Giffard in March 1634 in which he promised his services to him for a five year term. Giffard, who recently became a seigneur, recruited colonists mostly from Perche to help populate the fledgling colony of New France. Towards that end, Giffard granted a concession of land known as an arrière-fief to Zacharie to help him settle. Zacharie named his new property La Cloutièrerie (or La Clousterie). These 1000 arpents were located in Beauport, a few miles from Quebec.

Xainte may or may not have come to New France at the same time as Zacharie when he sailed from Dieppe in the spring of 1634. Sources differ on the arrival date, but it was either that year or perhaps two years later in 1636. They and their children were among the earliest families to settle in New France.

The first time Xainte appears in a record created in New France is at the marriage of her daughter Louise on 26 October 1645 in Quebec.

The Cloutier couple resided at La Cloutièrerie for over thirty-five years until Zacharie sold his land in 1670. He and Xainte then lived with one of their sons at Château-Richer. Zacharie died on 17 September 1677, while Xainte, who survived him by nearly three years, died on 13 July 1680. They are buried in Château-Richer.

Xainte and Zacharie had six children, three boys and three daughters, born between 1617 and 1632 and all baptised in Mortagne. I descend from their youngest child Louise (1632-1699) by her second husband Jean Mignault dit Châtillon. I also have a connection to their elder daughter Anne (1626-1648), who married as his first wife my ancestor Robert Drouin. (I descend through him by his second wife Marie Chapelier.)

Zacharie has been called the ancêtre de tous les canadiens français (the ancestor of all the French Canadians). This claim to fame is well deserved: the immigrant couple formed by Zacharie and Xainte has the distinction of being the ancestors of the largest number of married descendants before 1800 – an astonishing 10,850! (This bit of genealogical trivia is courtesy of Le Programme de recherche en démographie historique (The Research Program in Historical Demography) at

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

A Genealogy Time Machine

Nick Gombash, at Nick Gombash’s Genealogy Blog, recently posted an article about his “absolute top three choices of who, when, where and why I would go back in time”. Take a look at which ancestors he chose in Genealogy Time Machine

A personal genealogy time machine sounds like fun! Here are my choices (two of my ancestors and one of my husband's).

Who: François Janvry dit Belair
When: 1759
Where: New France
Why: I’d like to know when and where my 4x great-grandfather was born in France. I’d also ask him what it was like to be a soldier in the Seven Years War and if he fought at the Battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham when it fell to the British in September 1759.

Who: Eugène Desgroseilliers
When: 1930s
Where: Ontario, Canada
Why: I’d like to ask my maternal grandfather how he went from being a simple farmer in the 1920s to chief of police in the 1930s. According to his daughters, it was because of his imposing height (he was 6’7”). Did his height really have something to do with getting this job or did he have other qualifications? I’d also like to see the medal he received at this time for being the youngest chief of police.

Who: Michael Demofsky
When: 1899
Where: Saskatchewan, Canada
Why: I’d like to ask my husband’s paternal great-grandfather if his surname was really Konkin before he changed it to Demofsky to avoid the draft in tsarist Russia. I’d also like to know when and where he was born and who were his parents and his wife. (They stayed behind in Russia and their names are lost to their descendants.) Finally, I’d ask him on what date and on what ship did he sail to Canada. (Tradition has it that he immigrated in May 1899 on the “Lake Superior”, but his name does not appear on the ship’s manifest.)

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: My Father’s Matrilineal Line

My father Maurice’s matrilineal line is short – it’s only six generations. His matrilineal ancestry goes back to his great-great-great-grandmother Marie Kekijicakoe, who was born about 1793. Marie was possibly Ojibwa (Chippewa, Algonquin) from the Lake Nipissing region of present-day Ontario, Canada.

Maurice Belair’s Matrilineal Line:

1. Maurice Belair (1927-1996)

2. Julie Vanasse (1896-1967)

3. Elisabeth Vanasse (1862-1947)

4. Marie Guérard (1840-1917)

5. Euphrosine Laronde (ca 1820-between 1852 – 1861)

6. Marie Kekijicakoe [Kekijicoköe] (ca 1793-between 1846 – 1870)

I plan on writing an article or two about what I’ve found so far about my Métis and Aboriginal heritage in a future article on my blog.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Polly Cazakoff

Mrs. Polly (née Poznekoff) Cazakoff was my husband's maternal grandmother. Her Russian name was Polya, a diminutive of Pelageya.

Polly Cazakoff obituary, 1971.

Source: "Mrs. Polly Cazakoff", undated clipping, 1971, from unidentified newspaper; Demoskoff Family Papers, privately held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2012. Yvonne acquired an assortment of family memorabilia in January 2012 from her father-in-law William (Bill) Demoskoff, including this obituary of his mother-in-law Polly, who died on 4 June 1971.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sepia Saturday 148: 20 October 2012

For the past few weeks, I’ve mostly used images from my family albums when I participate in Sepia Saturday. For this week’s image prompt, I thought I'd choose a picture from my husband’s photo albums that closely resembles the above picture. However, this decision caused me a bit of a dilemma, because there’s not one single solitary image of ‘police’ or ‘guns’ or such like in their albums. Not to worry, I thought, just go with another choice, like uniforms, well-dressed men, bicycles, windows, people peering from the shadows, buildings, or something completely different. It was then that I remembered a certain black-and-white photo.

Michael and his sister Margaret, about 1962.

My future husband Michael (in his pre-eyeglasses days) and his younger sister Margaret were photographed with their bicycles by their farm house near Pelly, Saskatchewan, Canada. Hubby thinks it was about 1962 or 1963. He’s dressed like most typical boys of those days, complete with baseball cap, but his sister’s dress doesn’t seem too convenient for bike riding, does it? (As a girl, I wore shorts and tops in the summer; dresses were reserved for special occasions like birthdays.) When I visited Maggie last month, I asked her if she remembered this photo. She did, and then explained that, as a young Doukhobor girl, she regularly wore dresses or blouses and skirts and a kerchief or head shawl. Maggie added that she didn’t own a pair of pants until she was a teenager. Regardless of how they dressed, I’m sure that Michael and Margaret had lots of fun riding their bicycles during their carefree childhood summers!

If you want to see how other bloggers “[use] old images as prompts for new reflections”, head over to Sepia Saturday

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sébastien Hervet, Ancestor of the Harvey family of Quebec

Last January, I wrote a brief biography about Sébastien Hervet in the genealogical newsletter I publish for my family. (I sometimes like to "branch out" genealogically and research my brother-in-law's French-Canadian ancestors and my great-nephew's American ancestors.) Sébastien is the 6x great-grandfather of my brother-in-law Gabriel. I’ve adapted slightly this article for my blog, so that a wider audience can learn something about the ancestor of the Harvey family of the province of Quebec.


In 1642, a sixth child and fourth son was born to Gabriel Hervet and his wife Marguette Laurillo in Blois. The child, named Sébastien, was baptised there on 28 June 1642 in the Bourg-Moyen abbey.[1] Blois, an ancient city, is located on the banks of the Loire River between Orléans and Tours in central France. Its famous château de Blois was once a residence of French kings, including Louis XII who was born there in 1462.[2]

Sébastien’s father and uncle were tinsmiths, while other paternal relatives were tanners, merchants, and law clerks. His mother Marguette (a diminutive of Marguerite) came from a well-to-do merchant family. At her wedding, she brought a dowry of mille livres en argent and a trousseau of bed linen and tablecloths.[3] The Hervet family lived in relative comfort and prosperity. At the marriage of their daughter Renée in 1653, Gabriel paid a dowry of 1500 livres.[4]


Sébastien was only eight years old when his mother died and not quite 12 years old when his father remarried. In due course, Sébastien followed in his father’s footsteps and began his training as a tinsmith. The Hervet men, whose home included a workshop and store, fabricated household objects like dishes, candelabras, and basins, as well as church objects like stoups (vessels placed at the entrance of a church containing holy water).[5]

Father and son’s close work collaboration came to an end with Gabriel’s death in October 1660.[6] The family experienced a change in fortune at this time, not only because the head of the family died, but also because the well-to-do clientele of Blois and its surroundings left the region after its benefactor prince Gaston d’Orléans died in February earlier that year.[7] (Gaston, son of King Henri IV and brother of King Louis XIII, often resided at the château de Blois. A court gathered at Blois, companions of the prince, as well as officials, nobles, musicians, and various other attendants whose presence influenced the social and financial character of the city.)

New France

In the spring of 1662, Sébastien’s sister Renée, her husband Hippolyte Thibierge and their two sons left for New France.[8] Soon after, brother Gabriel followed their sister to the French colony. It wasn’t long after his brother’s departure that Sébastien decided to join his siblings; he left for Canada about 1670-1671. The exact date is unknown, but it was before October 1671, because Sébastien was a witness at a marriage that month in Quebec.[9] Ten years later, he was living in Montreal, where he was enumerated on the 1681 census as "Sébastien Hervé". He was 33 years old, unmarried, with no occupation indicated.[10] He also had 15 arpents en valeur (cleared land).[11]


At the rather advanced age of 46, Sébastien married at Notre-Dame in Quebec on 10 January 1689.[12] His bride Françoise Philippeau was a young widow with three children. The couple had five children of their own (three sons and two daughters) between 1689 and 1700.[13] Sébastien returned to Blois, France on two or three occasions, the last time in April 1708 to claim his share of an inheritance.[14]


Sébastien died on 15 April 1714 in the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec.[15] He was buried the following day in Quebec.[16]

Family Name

Sébastien and Françoise’s second son, also named Sébastien, was the only surviving son who married and had Hervet descendants. Over the years, he family surname changed gradually from Hervet, to Hervé, and later to Harvey.


1. Fichier Origine, database ( : accessed 19 December 2011), entry for Sébastien Hervé/Hervet. Also, Ghislain Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française (volume 62, numéro 2, cahier 268, été 2011), 138.

2. Château Royal de Blois ( : accessed 14 October 2012), “Royal Residence during the Renaissance”.

3. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 136.

4. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 139.

5. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 139.

6. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 140.

7. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 140.

8. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 141.

9. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 141.

10. “Histoire des Canadiens-Français 1608-1880: origine, histoire, religion, guerres, découvertes, colonisation, coutumes, vie dome[stique, sociale et politique, développement, avenir]”, digital images, ( : accessed 15 October 2012), V: 69; citing Benjamin Sulte, Histoire des Canadiens-Français 1608-1880 : origine, histoire, religion, guerres, découvertes, colonisation, coutumes, vie domestique, sociale et politique, développement, avenir, 8 vols. (Montréal: Wilson & Cie., 1882-1884).

11. Sébastien's 15 arpents equal about 12.67 acres (area) or 13.78 acres (length). "Conversion des unités de mesure, de longueur et de superficie", database, Ressources naturelles et faune Québec( : accessed 16 October 2012).

12. René Jetté, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec (Montréal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1983), 567, “Sébastien Hervé”.

13. Jetté, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec, “Sébastien Hervé”.

14. Le Mauff, “Des Hervet blésois aux Harvey québécois”, 142.

15. Jetté, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec, “Sébastien Hervé”.

16. Jetté, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec, “Sébastien Hervé”.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: On the Town

Desgroseilliers sisters, 1959.
The Desgroseilliers sisters (all six of them), photographed at a club in 1959. Left to right: Jeanne d'arc, Madeleine, Simone, Mariette, Jacqueline (my Mom), and Normande.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet – W is for …

W is for words of wisdom.

As I sat at my desk, thinking about what topic I might choose for this latest alphabet challenge, a thought came to me. I'll write about my Dad’s sayings – his words of wisdom. (For those who want to participate in this creative and fun challenge, visit Family History Through the Alphabet.) 

Dad used to give me and my siblings a lot of advice when we were young, as I'm sure most fathers do with their children. It’s been 16 years since he passed away and I’ve forgotten many of his sayings, so this is my opportunity to record for posterity the ones I do remember before more memory loss sets in. 

I asked my brother and sister if they remembered some of Dad’s sayings. Marianne recalled bits of advice (similar to the ones I remembered). Raymond, however, recalled corrections, like "You don’t put gasoline in a diesel truck, you put diesel.” Advice or corrections, we all agreed on one thing: when Dad spoke in this manner, we knew it came from a place of love and that our father wanted the best for us, his children. 

Maurice Belair and his daughter Marianne on his 40th birthday, 1967.

Here are a few of my Dad's sayings: 

“Keep a path clear in your bedroom in case of an emergency.”
                Dad wanted us children to be able to get out of bed and make it safely to the door of our room without tripping over toys and other items in case of fire at night. 

“Buy yellow jackets so that you can be seen at night.”
                I couldn’t see myself ever buying a yellow-coloured jacket, at least not when I was a teenager, but I knew Dad thought wearing dark-coloured clothing like navy, brown or black while walking outdoors at night wasn’t a good idea. Years later, when my son was a little boy, I remembered my father’s advice and bought him an all-weather yellow jacket. I figured it was the ideal colour for all those rainy days we have here in the fall and winter months.

“Always buy a little better than what you can afford.”
                Dad felt that spending a little more money than you planned when buying something, say a camera or a coffee maker, was worth it, because you’d get extra features that would come in handy one day.

“Don’t go back for things you’ve forgotten once you’re on the road.”
                Dad didn’t believe in turning the car around and going back home for forgotten items once we started on a journey – whether it was a half hour drive or a trip across the country. I think he must have felt it was bad luck, and only made exceptions for important things like a wallet.

“Why get somebody to fix it when I can do it myself?”
                Dad couldn’t see paying good money to have someone else fix or repair things around the house when he could have a go at it and see how it would turn out. Not only did he like to save money, but I think he liked a challenge and got a kick out of being able to conquer any fix-it task. He almost always managed on his own, believing all he needed was common sense and determination.

“It’s better to have a warm jacket and never mind how it looks.”
                Dad obviously thought warmth trumped fashion, and was concerned for our comfort during those long, cold winters we had in Timmins, Ontario. My sister found this out one year when Dad was delegated to take her shopping for a winter coat. Dad dutifully went shopping, but took Marianne to a nearby men’s clothing store, to her great embarrassment. I guess he wanted her to buy something warm and practical. I don’t recall if my sister came home with a coat from that store or if she persuaded Dad to let her shop instead at a women’s store.

“If you do something, do it the best you can.”
                There were no half measures with Dad. It didn’t matter if you did something ordinary like housework or  repair a leaky faucet, or something special like sing in a choir or buy a car, if you’re gonna do it, then do it right. And by ‘right’ he didn’t mean perfect. He meant give it an honest effort, do the best you can, and take pride in yourself and in your work.

I so wish my Dad could know how much his words of wisdom have meant to me all these years and how I've put them to use as an adult.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Recently, I read about a national day of remembrance that I didn’t know existed. Tomorrow October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I found out about this special day while reading Weekly Genealogy Picks on TransylvanianDutch: Genealogy and Family History.

According to Wikipedia, this day has been “proclaimed in New Brunswick, Manitoba, [and] Nova Scotia [in] Canada”. In the USA, where it is sometimes known as Stillbirth and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15 is “set aside each year to honor and remember babies that have been stillborn. In many cases, this definition is expanded to include babies lost to miscarriage, SIDS, and complications of pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancies, among others”.[1] 

I wondered, "What could I do to honour this special day?" After a few moments of thought, I decided I'd write something about my grandmothers’ experiences.

My paternal grandmother, Julie (Vanasse) Belair, gave birth to six children, three sons and two daughters, between 1927 and 1937. Her second child, a daughter, was born on 29 June 1928 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. This unnamed girl, who was born prematurely, lived only three minutes, according to her death registration.[2] She was buried on 2 July 1928 in Ottawa’s Notre-Dame cemetery. I can understand that this little girl was premature, because she was born 11 months after my father Maurice was born on 2 August 1927. Assuming she was conceived 2-3 months after this date, my grandmother’s second child might have arrived a month earlier than expected.

Julie’s last child, a son, was born on 31 January 1937 at home in Fauquier, Ontario. He was named Joseph, but I don’t believe he was baptised or even ondoyé (a French term that means a sort of provisional baptism, done by someone present at the birth because the child is in danger of not surviving). Joseph lived only one hour, according to the medical certificate of death.[3] The cause of death was “congenital debility” with the contributory cause being “premature birth”.  He was buried on 1 February 1937 in Fauquier.

My maternal grandmother, Juliette (Beauvais) Desgroseilliers, gave birth to nine children, two sons and seven daughters, between 1926 and 1938. Her first child, a son, was born on Christmas Day 1926 at home in Moonbeam, Ontario. He appears as “Xavier” on his death registration, but according to my Mom and her sisters, his name was “Noël”. He lived only one hour; cause of death: “To [sic] young to live”.[4] Noël was buried on 26 December 1926 in Moonbeam. I suppose that “too young to live” is another way of saying premature. His parents Juliette and Eugène married the previous year on 18 August 1925, so it’s difficult for me to tell how premature he might have been.

To learn more about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, visit Remembering Our Babies at


1. Wikipedia contributors, "Stillbirth Remembrance Day," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed October 10, 2012).

2. “Ontario, Canada Deaths, 1869-1932”, digital images, ( : accessed 1 August 2007), entry for [unnamed female] Belair, death registration 29 June 1928; citing original data: Archives of Ontario, Registration of Deaths – 1869-1932, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario, microfilms MS935, reels 1-615.

3. “Ontario, Canada Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947”, digital images, ( : accessed 22 October 2011), entry for Joseph Belair, death registration 31 January 1937; citing original data: Archives of Ontario, Registration of Deaths – 1869-1938, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario, microfilms MS935, reels 1-615.

4. “Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947”, digital images, ( : accessed 22 April 2010), entry for Xavier Cesgrosullier [as is in index], death registration 25 December 1926; citing original data: Archives of Ontario, Registration of Deaths – 1869-1938, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario, microfilms MS935, reels 1-615.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sepia Saturday 147: 13 October 2012

Sepia Saturday’s participants use “old images as prompts for new reflections”. This week’s theme, like past ones, is open-ended: it could be “the military angle […], group photos, uniforms, medals and regalia, dapper caps, or even shiny boots” and much more. 

When I saw the photo prompt (above), I thought about the men in my family who wore uniforms. I was lucky to find a (rather grainy) photo of my Mom’s uncles Jean-Marie and Jean-Paul Beauvais in uniform. Aren't they a pair of young, confident men?

Jean-Marie and Jean-Paul Beauvais, 1940s.

Fraternal twins born in 1921 in Papineau County, Quebec, they were the youngest of 16 children of Joseph and Olivine (Hotte) Beauvais. Twenty-three years separated Jean-Marie and Jean-Paul from their eldest sibling, a brother born in 1898. Sadly, the twins lost their mother Olivine when they were five years old and their father when they were 16 years old. 

I know that Jean-Marie and Jean-Paul were soldiers in World War II, but I don’t think they went overseas. Mom believes that Uncle Jean-Marie was posted for a time at CFB Chilliwack (in British Columbia, Canada) during the War, where he helped build bridges. As for Uncle Jean-Paul, Mom doesn't remember where he was posted or what he did.

I met my great-uncles only 2 or 3 times, but each occasion was memorable. Jean-Marie (on the left, above) was the more extroverted of the two, but both he and Jean-Paul (on the right, above) were fun, sociable and generous men. They loved their family and especially liked visiting their eldest sister Juliette, my Mom’s sister.

Jean-Marie Beauvais with his sister Juliette Desgroseilliers, 1945.

Some years after the War, both men married and raised families. Jean-Marie died recently in 2010, while Jean-Paul predeceased him in 2003.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Famous Relatives: Justin Bieber

I previously wrote about how the Dionne Quintuplets and I are fourth cousins. Yesterday, I found that I’m related – distantly – to Justin Bieber. He’s my 10th cousin once removed through our common ancestors Jean Elie dit Breton (ca 1621-1699) and his second wife Jeanne Labbé (ca 1641-1715).

I used the tree shown at “Baby, Baby, Baby” – Justin Bieber, Ryan Gosling and Avril Lavigne Are Related on’s blog to see from which ancestors we descend.

That tree shows how Justin, actor Ryan Gosling and singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne are related through Mathurin Roy and his wife Marguerite Biré. Mathurin and Marguerite don’t seem to be my ancestors (not that I’ve found, so far), but I did notice a familiar surname among their descendants: Eli[e] dit Breton. I soon found the connection: Jean-Baptiste Eli dit Breton (Justin’s 6th great-grandfather) is 3rd cousins with Marie-Angélique Bissonnet (my 5th great-grandmother). Jean-Baptiste and Marie-Angélique are therefore descendants of Jean Elie dit Breton and Jeanne Labbé.

The table below shows how Justin Bieber and I are related. He descends from Jean and Jeanne’s eldest son François (1672-1735), while I descend from their younger son Pierre (1676-1760). (By the way, can anyone tell me how I can ensure that the lines I draw connecting one person’s name to another person’s name remain when I copy and paste my article (composed in MS Word 2010) into Blogger? The lines connecting Jean and Jeanne to their sons François and Pierre don't seem to import like the table does.)

Jean Elie dit Breton m. (2) 1669: Jeanne Labbé

François Elie dit Breton (1672-1735)
Pierre Elie dit Breton (1676-1760)
Jean Elie dit Breton
Thérèse Elie
Jean-Baptiste Elie dit Breton
Louis Bissonnet
Jean-Baptiste Eli dit Breton
Marie-Angélique Bissonnet
Charles Eli dit Breton
Marie Josephte Adam
Gilbert Breton
Josephte Messier
Joseph-François-Amédée Breton
Olivier Vanasse
Marie-Alphonsine-Germaine Breton
Olivier Vanasse
Estelle Germain
Julie Vanasse
Diane M Henry
Maurice Belair
Patricia Mallette
Yvonne Belair
Justin Bieber

I haven’t yet checked to see how I might be related to Ryan Gosling and Avril Lavigne, but there could be a connection through Ryan’s Dion ancestors and Avril’s Séguin ancestors.
Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.